Mika’s ‘The Origin Of Love’: Album Review

Jeff Katz | October 16, 2012 5:45 am
Looks like the boy who forever lived life in cartoon motion has grown up…a bit. Maturity is front and center on Mika’s third full-length release, The Origin Of Love (out today, ). But diehards needn’t worry: the poppy bounce and playful melodies are still ever present, as is a seasoned pop star with some solid life experience under his belt. Sure, he may have written a song for Madonna about killing a lover, but for his own album, Mika is all about the love. Look no further than the title track (not to be confused with the Hedwig And The Angry Inch song of the same name), where the singer manages to compare feelings of love to that of nicotine addiction and candy canes. There are or grand choruses, tribal chants, soaring vocals. Quirky yet sort of brilliant. In other words, perfectly Mika.

The album as a whole revolves around themes and ideas of love: having it, losing it, being ridiculously frustrated with it. And after his interview with Instinct earlier this fall, we know officially know that a lot of the album’s inspiration was found in his current boyfriend. So has his public coming out resulted in different Mika? Not really, which in this case is welcomed news.

Though if he was going to have a “coming out” record, Mika made sure to really grab the glitter balls with pride by working in a Broadway sample. (Because nothing says “I’m gay!” like a little Wicked.) Except that “Popular Song,” which borrows the hook from Kristen Chenoweth’s now famous show tune solo, is more substance than schmaltz. Hip-hop writer Priscilla Renea guests on the track, which also finds Mika trying his hand at rapping, as the two wordplay around the bullies of their past — with smiles and jazz hands, natch. Never has telling off your haters sounded so…happy!

That playfulness continues on the it’s-funny-because-it’s-true “Love You When I’m Drunk,” and the hand-clap ditty “Lola,” but the heart is “Underwater.” Mika’s knack for gorgeous ballads (think “Happy Ending” and “Any Other World”) continues with this layered track, proclaiming over and over that all he needs to breathe is your love. It’s a moment of honest vulnerability that can be traced through a bulk of the record, particularly in the synth-drenched “Make U Happy.” Sounding like the lovechild born of a night of tortured passion between Royksopp and Erasure, the track marks one of the biggest departures stylistically for Mika. While some worried back in June when the song previewed that the sound would reflect a new direction in the Mika catalog, it turns out that couldn’t be farther from the truth. “Make U Happy” fits in rather wonderfully — both in sound and content—on The Origin Of Love, signifying the growth of a young man who is turning in his lollipops for true love.

In fact, there are only two tracks that seem misplaced on the album: first single “Celebrate” and the dated-sounding “Kids.” Not that either aren’t good songs, because they are. It’s just that, unfortunately, “Celebrate” never brings the punch of energy you’re awaiting — that  breath of air that could have been worked in instead of Pharrell’s throwaway contribution. But if “joy-chasing” was the overarching goal of the album as a whole, as Mika has publicly said, then we may have just found love in a joyful place.

The Best Song Wasn’t The Single: The alter ego-referencing “Emily.” Where “Celebrate” failed to capitalize on the dance craze of the moment, “Emily” (or is it Mika?) commands listeners to “Dance! Dance! Dance!”

Most Unlikely Description Of Love: “This love’s delicious, like home-cooked dishes I’m tasting mischievously” in the Jason Mraz-worthy “Step With Me”

Best Listened To: In the throes of new (or refreshed) love, where flaws seem insignificant and you haven’t yet developed the desire to tell your partner to stop talking.

Idolator Rating: 4/5

Jeff Katz

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